I am touched... He rubs me the wrong way... I feel....
All these statements refer to our emotional perspectives through the sense of touch and references to the tactile sensation of our skin. The other week I attended a lecture by Dr. David Linden the author of the book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind. He read excerpts from his book and talked a little about the physiology and research about touch.
Turns out that we are hard-wired to receive and give touch. Certainly they have discovered that children deprived of touch have all sorts of psychological and physical ailments. Primates groom and touch each other which in turn binds the troop together. There are studies that suggest that waitstaff is more likely to receive a larger tip if he/she provides a light touch on the arm for instance. All of this is to suggest that humans need community and need to be close to one another.
In this day and age of germ phobia, sexual harassment training, and social disengagement, we are a society that looks down on touch. It has to be "appropriate" and "clean". Not that there is anything wrong with that thinking per se. Certainly there has been too much inappropriate touch by individuals set on doing harm.
Yet I think that touch is a sense that is overlooked. We use touch expressions all the time but we rarely actually touch. In this day and age of individualism and social isolation, I wonder how much we are missing and are depriving ourselves due to our lack of touch with one another. I know that the loss of touch is something that widows and widowers mention when their spouses die. They note that no one is there to give them a hug on a regular basis.
Be your own detective/scientist. Go to any public place, restaurant, coffee shop, mall and see how often people touch -holding hands, patting a back, giving a squeeze, shaking hands, etc.
Look at your own life. How do you respond to touch? Do you like it? Is it off-putting? Are you the cuddly type? Do you reach out in affection towards people or do you cringe when others reach towards you?
Even before Dr. Linden did his research, AT&T was tooting the virtues of "reach out, reach out and touch someone." Try it. Give someone a hug today. You'll be doing both of you a favor.